Wednesday, August 25, 2010

Geography Tools/Resources

When we started our home-school journey almost 18 years ago, I was fairly confident in my ability to be able to teach the various school subjects. I was particularly looking forward to teaching geography.


My knowledge of geography begins and ends with; north is always up, south is always down and somethin-somethin about the sun always setting somewhere.

It's no wonder that I get lost just trying to find the kitchen.

Thankfully, there are other mom's who have put together some amazing geography curriculum's. I have tried quite a few over the years, not because they weren't all good, but because of how good they really are.


During the grade school years, adventure is key to grabbing and holding kids' attention. The people at Geography Matters understand that and have developed multiple levels of age-appropriate material. Needless to say, I am a fan. Cantering the Country (U.S.) and Galloping the Globe (World) are almost complete curriculum's by themselves. Literature, science, art, history, vocabulary, and bible lessons are added to each section and you, the parent, can use as much or as little as you like. Some things are better seen than read, so there are Internet links provided as well for various subjects. Have I mentioned that I'm a fan? Better yet, my 3 youngest kids are also fans.

Remember Highlights magazines? They came out with "Which Way USA?" issues. It took me a while to collect all 50 states plus Washington DC, but it will be well worth it when we dig a little deeper into each state's history. Some of the content is pretty easy, while others are more difficult, making this a great supplement for multi-age families.

Middle School

I also purchased these from GeoMatters. One of the things I like the best about the Trail Guide books by Cindy Wiggers, is that they are also multi-age appropriate. There are 3 different levels in each book, already coordinated into the same lesson!!! I cannot tell you what a great tool that is. I used to spend hours on the weekends trying to make everybody's geography line up with each other. It just doesn't make sense to me to have 1 child learning about Texas, another learning about Delaware and another trying to figure out where Nebraska is.

I'm not even sure where Nebraska is...

The Geography Through Art and Ultimate Geography and Timeline books are not necessary, but I found them to be amazing add-ons to this program.

High School

In Washington state, students need to have a semester of World Geography to graduate. We have used Abeka's World Geography for all 5 of our graduates and I'm fairly certain they enjoyed it. Along with the textbook, there is a mapping workbook, test booklet, and answer key. Even though it is written for a classroom setting, it adapts easily to the home-school student.

Another option is the Trail Guide to Bible Geography, also by GeoMatters. It is set up just like the other trail guide books (multi-grade learning), but focuses primarily on the biblical maps of ancient and modern day. With this one, I suggest getting all of the atlases that are recommended. 'Frugal Frannie' here tried to "wing it" and just use what we had. Bad idea. We had to jump ship and wait until we could afford to get all of the appropriate atlases. Lesson learned.

When deciding on a geography program, make sure that you don't cut too many corners on the supplemental supplies. My kids have made layered maps on vinyl sheets, created lapbooks, and mapped on a huge wall map. Even the youngest child can participate by coloring the state or country from a coloring book.

Finally, even though books can teach the basics, real life has a way of making the facts stick. For instance, a few years ago, we were studying the various trails that the pioneers traveled. Being in the Pacific Northwest, we were able to take a vacation and follow some of the Oregon trail. We stopped at several museums and even stayed in a campground that had covered wagons and teepee's! Over the years, we've walked where Lewis & Clark walked, stood on a mountain that erupted (Mt. St. Helens), and camped inside an active volcano (Yellowstone).

Geography doesn't have to be a boring subject. With the right curriculum, resources and a sense of adventure, geography just might turn into a favorite subject!

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